What is defamation, libel and slander?

Whether you are the victim of internet defamation or being wrongfully accused of internet defamation, you need to understand the law. In order for a comment, post or article to constitute internet libel, the following elements must typically be met:

  1. The first thing you must prove is that the statement constitutes a false statement of fact. A fact is different than an opinion. A fact can be proven true or false. Opinions are typically not actionable as defamation.
  2. The false statement of fact must harm your reputation. There are many false statements posted across the internet. In order to constitute libel, a statement must not only be false but must harm you or your company’s reputation and cause harm.
  3. The false statement of fact causing harm must be made without adequate due diligence or research into the truthfulness of the statement. Alternatively, plaintiffs often attempt to prove that the false statement of fact was made with full knowledge of its falsity.
  4. If the person who is the subject of the false statement of fact is a celebrity or public official, the plaintiff must also prove “malice.” Malice is proven when the person posting the information on the internet intended to do harm or acted with reckless disregard of the truth in making the statements.

There is often confusion about the differences between defamation, libel and slander. In many ways, courts treat defamation on the internet similar to off-line defamation. But there are differences which you need to understand when the false statements are made on-line.

  1. Defamation: An unprivileged false statement of fact which tends to harm the reputation of a person or company. This is a catch-all term for both libel and slander.
  2. Libel: Defamation which is written such as on a web site. Most on-line defamation occurs through libel by posting a web page, comment, bulletin board post, review, rating or blog post.
  3. Slander: Defamation that is spoken such as through an transcribed video, podcast or audio file.
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